Sucheta Dalal :Twists & turns in stamp paper scam (24 Nov 2003)
Sucheta Dalal

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Twists & turns in stamp paper scam (24 Nov 2003)  

There is a good reason why the Special Investigation Team’s (SIT) report on the sensational Stamp Paper scam has leaked only in bits and pieces for almost a year after it was submitted. It is because the SIT’s investigation is a damning exposure of the manner in which corrupt police officials can subvert, extort money and let off criminals. Even in the stamp scam, a retired police chief says that the racket of registering weak cases against Abdul Karim Telgi was only halted because the cabal of dirty cops squabbled over the loot. The consequent investigation exposed the deep rot in the system, which has robbed several States of an estimated Rs 20,000 crore or more. This column is restricted to Deputy Inspector General Subodh Jaiswal’s report on allegations made by S.M. Mushrif, Additional Commissioner of Police (CP) Crime at Pune against R.S. Sharma then the Pune CP who went was made Commissioner of Police at Mumbai despite these charges.

Sometime during the third week of June 2002, S.M. Mushrif met Commissioner R.S. Sharma who allegedly told him to target the wife and daughter of Abdul Karim Telgi saying ‘Ek karodpati ki aurat ko aropi nahi bananeki kimat bahut jyada ho sakti hai’ (the price of not listing the wife of a crorepati as an accused can be very high). A few days later, Sharma allegedly told Mushrif ‘‘there is no use now, don’t go in depth, it will spoil the morale of the I.O. (Inspecting Officer), you concentrate on the investigation’’. He also told Mushrif not to issue written memos to Inspector Prakash Deshmukh, who the Jaiswal report later found guilty of ‘perverse conduct, incompetence, negligence and dishonesty beyond reasonable doubt’.

On October 16, 2002, Mushrif wrote to Sharma claiming that the ‘‘inclusion of the names in a highly suspicious manner smacks of outright malafide intention, ostensibly to extract money from the main accused Abdul Karim Laadsaab Telgi by threatening to arrest his wife (Shahida), minor daughter (Sana) and ailing brother (Abdul Rahim), and later to delete their names saying that there was insufficient evidence found against them’’.

He further alleged that five persons who were consistently shown as ‘wanted accused’ in the case were ‘‘mysteriously dropped in the case dairy’’. They were — Manoj Kotharath, Fatima (Visiwala), Javed, Gafar Nabilal Tamboli and Bajarang Mamklal Kharatmal. Instead, six others including the Telgi family, Anilkumar Narayandas Shah and Ali Eliyas Telgi were substituted as accused. Commissioner R.S. Sharma has flatly denied Mushrif’s allegations, but the Jaiswal report makes some stunningly serious charges do not exonerate Sharma or show Mushrif in good light either. In fact, Jaiswal confirms that the names of Telgi’s minor daughter, wife and ailing brother were indeed included in a hurry, that too within three days after filing the charge sheet (3.9.2002) and without any clear evidence against them in the case diaries. This says Jaiswal was ‘‘clearly malicious’’ and ‘‘cannot be merely viewed as incompetence, but as malafide and dishonest’’.

He says that the detection of the fake stamp fraud is a feather in the cap of the Pune police, but ‘‘subsequent shoddy investigative work of collating evidence displays evident dishonesty, professional incompetence and lack of team work’’. Even the 22-line chargesheet filed in the case, with no specific charges establishes the ‘causal and cavalier manner’ in which the scam was investigated. People who ought to have been cited as ‘wanted accused’ have been repeatedly cited as ‘detected accused’ leaving ‘room for manoeuvrability’ to discharge them later for insufficient evidence. In fact, the police seem to have done their best to produce a weak case that would be ripped apart by defence lawyers and thrown out of court. Jaiswal’s finding are even more damning on the five persons that were let off. The facts about Manoj Kotaharath were obfuscated and evidence is insufficient. Fatima ought to have been turned into a witness, but it wasn’t done.

Gafar Tamboli was the brother-in-law of Telgi’s brother Azeem, but he was not identified as a ‘wanted accused’ despite clear evidence against him. ‘Javed’ is a mystery. There is one ‘Javed Sheikh’ listed as a suspect but nobody knows who he is, while a Javed Jamadar is on record, but is only an alias of Abdul Kadar Ghaus Momin. He has since been arrested and chargesheeted. Anil Narayandas Shah has not been pursued despite plenty of evidence to make him a clear accused. Jaiswal repeatedly points out how evidence was not ‘‘brought on record in a proper manner’’ and that the case diaries do no properly reflect much of the investigation and findings, leaving room for ‘‘misuse of evidence’’. He says that ‘‘there are a number of acts of criminal negligence, which are evident on the face of it’’ and would have ‘‘wide ramifications at the trial stage’’. Panchnamas of raids are also suspiciously conducted and documented. In one case, a place previously raided by the Pune police yielded incriminating evidence, such as high denomination stamp papers, aluminium sheets with embossing and audiocassettes with Telgi’s voice recordings when the SIT conducted a second raid. The audiocassette contained ‘‘specific material evidence amounting to an extra judicial confession’’.

In another instance, a raiding team leaving Pune in the morning is shown to have investigated three places in Mumbai, then raided a fourth at Cuffe Parade and completed the panchanama in just five hours and 15 minutes. Jaiswal says that the court was bound to treat this ‘‘as improbably’’, giving an advantage to the defence. India Security Press officials were clearly protected and shown as ‘witnesses’ despite clear evidence about their complicity. There was ‘criminal negligence with malafide intent’ in not identifying one Sirajuddin Nasipuddi as an accused, despite ample evidence on record against him. Jaiswal blames this on ACP Mahammad Chand Mulani, who was transferred after the Karnataka police who allegedly taped him demanding money from Telgi.

The report finds the quality of S.M. Mushrif’s supervision ‘‘obviously selective to say the least’’. It notes with irony that the sordid saga would not have been exposed if Mushrif had not levelled serious allegations against his seniors. This would then have been just another case that ‘‘died a quiet death at the trial stage’’ due to the deliberate bungling of evidence by the police. But isn’t that exactly what happens in every high profile scam or criminal investigation? Police records are deliberately faulty, the evidence sketchy and the accused are given plenty of opportunity to threaten or buy out witnesses. Justice is not blind but our law enforcers ensure that she is deliberately blinded.

-- Sucheta Dalal